Latest release: Volition (Razor and Tie)
Ontarian prog metal lads Protest the Hero have returned to Australia after last visiting in 2012 as part of the Soundwave festival. The band’s latest album was funded by a crowd-funding campaign that netted them more than $CAD125,000 and features the stickswork of Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, who sat in for the departed Moe Carlson. Volition went on to win a Juno award and debuted in the Billboard Top 20. Loud caught up with guitarist Tim Millar to talk about doing it their own way.
Hi Tim, how are you? Are you excited about coming back to Australia to tour?
Everything is good, we’re just gearing up for our tours and we’re pretty excited to be coming back to Australia! We were last down there in 2012 for Soundwave and we had a great time; felt like we were spoiled and, well, we’re really looking forward to it! It’s just very exciting even though I feel like I did get a taste when we were last there. It’s still a very foreign place to me. I mean we saw a couple of tourist-ey things but I feel like I didn’t get to observe much of the country or the culture. It’ll be really exciting to see whether we have a solid fan base there so it’s all gonna be a big surprise!”
What was the general idea that kick started the whole album, the artwork and was there any real theme behind Volition?
Well there is no real underlying concept as far as the album and lyrics go, but the title was one that we wanted to make sound interesting. The meaning I take from it is ‘free will’ and I feel like being a musician, living life the way we do really relates to that thought process. We choose to do what we do, to our own volition and that’s just how we wanna keep going! As for the artwork, we got in touch with this guy and the reason we liked his work is because he did some of The Mars Volta’s stuff. So we just gave him some ideas, some of the lyrical concepts that we had put together and he just did his artistic spin on it and we really liked what he gave back to us!
How was it working with Chris Adler on the album?
It was awesome! We were kind of racking our brains, figuring out what exactly we could do and we thought it was a good opportunity to bring someone in who we could practice with and at the same time we didn’t want to rush into finding a replacement drummer so we thought we’d shoot high and Chris was one of the names that came up! He was the first guy we contacted and he was super into the project; rehearsing like a madman when he was up here and everything turned out just great! He did such a good job!”
Was the writing process of Volition different from previous albums?
Yeah it was a little bit different, kind of a mixed bag during the writing process since we lost our drummer; that was our first hiccup, then it was just one of those things where like all the other stuff we’ve written in the past sitting together in a room just jamming and working through songs. So we had started doing that for some of the tracks on Volition and then when we didn’t have a drummer we kind of went to practice and we really didn’t know how to continue writing and at that point we resorted to computer writing software and transcribing it and then kind of getting ideas and basically building up songs from that. So it was just a mix of everything really.
It must have felt special to have reached the crowd-funding target in only 20 hours.
Yeah it definitely exceeded our expectations. We were just hoping we’d try out something new and you know, if it was successful we’d definitely do everything to make the new album work. So we set really, really high goals for ourselves and it definitely blew us away when it all happened so quickly. We didn’t know that THAT many people appreciated our kind of music! We thought it was something that by day 30, we might just pass our goal, scrape through and we’d really have to be driving the album. But it was amazing to see us hit out target so quickly and it really put us at ease. We didn’t have to worry about how we were going to make the rest of the album!
Would you do it again?
As far as doing another campaign, I think it comes down to where we are at the time. Like honestly when we did the Indegogo we were dead broke as a band so that was kind of our resort. We don’t have any money and we didn’t want to go asking labels for money. We were kind of in a position where we had to do that (crowd funding campaign) but hopefully we won’t be in that position when we’re doing our next album; we’re gonna cross that bridge. But it’s really great to know that this is always an option and an opportunity that we learned from, what to do, what not to do. It was a great experience, experiment and we learned a lot!
What are your thoughts on the extent to which Volition is different from the rest of Protest The Hero’s albums?
That’s a really good question and its interesting because Volition is really varied in sound. I feel like in the past a lot of our albums kind of come from the same place, not that they sound alike but with the new album there’s this new sound of Protest The Hero as well as a throwback to older sounds. For instance, to me, ‘Underbite’ and ‘Clarity’ feel like very familiar songs, and then there’s ‘Drumhead Trial’ and ‘Skies’ which ventures into more newer musical realms for the band. But in terms of what really speaks of the band I feel like ‘Yellow Teeth’ and ‘Animal Bones’ has some reference to who we are and how we got to where we are. Every song stands out from the rest in some way. And I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished with this album.
To stay together as long as you have without any major glitches is definitely admirable. Is there any secret behind them and the band’s chemistry that makes them get along with each other so well?
We’re always aiming to move forward and we work on everything together. But I do think one of the main reasons we have that longevity as five members is because we started this band at such a young age, so even ten years later we’re still young and eager! So I think that the hardest thing in keeping a band together is keeping the people committed – to have people there through the good times and the bad there through the good times and bad times. We were lucky to do a lot of hard, tough touring when we were really young, always on the road, so now we know how to handle ourselves better and how to deal with different things!
What else is in store for Protest The Hero this year?
We’re hoping to take it relatively easily, tour some more, take a couple months off to focus on writing and recording. Not sure how quickly that’s gonna pan out. We have a new drummer we’re writing with and of course it’s going to be a different dynamic but hopefully next year is going to be more relaxed. If touring opportunities come up then we’re not going to say no to that. But yeah for the most part it’ll just be sitting back and seeing what comes our way.
Protest the Hero is touring now:
4/9: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD
5/9: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
6/9: HiFi Bar, Melbourne VIC
7/9: Brisbane Hotel, Hobart TAS
9/9: Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA
10/9: Amplifier Bar, Perth WA